TarBaby with special guests Oliver Lake & Marc Ducret

RogueArt ROG-0048

By Ken Waxman

Thematic without being officious Fanon is a loose homage to the revolutionary concepts of psychiatrist/author Frantz Fanon (1925-1961). Martinique-born Fanon, radicalized during his time in Algeria in the’50 as member of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), wrote books such as Black Skins, Black Masks which influenced Marxists and Black Panthers. But with only brief spoken word sections as introduction and finale, this CD is an estimable demonstration of finely honed expressive music, not agitprop. Ironically it also demonstrates sonic cooperation: the contributions from two guests, alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, a founding member in the Black Artists Group, and guitarist Marc Ducret from France, the then colonial power against which the FLN was fighting, add strength and sophistication to this program.

Together about a decade, Tarbaby – pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits – confidently swing throughout. But this ability to know exactly where to place a blues piano note, extend a bowed bass shudder or drop a drum bomb becomes more profound for instance, when coupled with Lake’s sing-song tones on “Is It Real” or Ducret’s menacing guitar shrills in the architectural center of “…Shall we not Revenge?”

Even ignoring the extra-musical implications of the titles leaves plenty to savor. “Liberation Blues”, for instance weds R&B guitar licks, rent-party piano vamps and double-time honks from the saxophonist into a modernist romp. “FLN Stomp” shows off Ducret’s mercurial buzzing on acoustic guitar. And the knife-sharp sax licks on “Black Skin White Masks” challenge the moderating influence of a bass line that never stops moving.

Nonetheless, considering that the first track includes a child explaining that his ambition is to cut into “Small Pieces … Tiny Pieces” the French soldiers who killed his parents before his eyes; and considering every musician shouts out that same phrase during the concluding “One Destiny”, discounting the CD’s political and sociological content is absurd.

Coupling musical smarts with an awareness of real life situations is what makes Fanon a high-quality release.

Tracks: Small Pieces... Tiny Pieces; Black Skin White Mask; Fanon; Between Nothingness and Infinity; The Re-Created Man; Is it Real; O My Body; Liberation Blues; FLN Stomp; ... Shall we not Revenge?; One Destiny

Personnel: Oliver Lake: alto saxophone; Marc Ducret: guitars; Orrin Evans: piano; Eric Revis: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums; Jason Fifefield: spoken words; Xiamora Revis: child’s voice

—For The New York City Jazz Record September 2014